Government Identity News

Korea to trial blockchain in large scale online voting

e-voting vote

The Korean Ministry of Science and Technology alongside Korea’s Internet and Security Agency, plan to explore blockchain in online voting. According to Yonhap News, blockchain solutions for donations, social welfare, renewable energy, and postal services will also be investigated.

The Korean government has approved a pilot of a blockchain-based voting system through the National Election Commission that can be used by more than 10 million people. This is likely one of the largest-scale blockchain online voting systems.

During the 2020 U.S. elections, despite the pandemic being at its peak, millions of Americans had to wait hours in line to vote, a common occurence in American elections, especially in poorer neighborhoods. The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted that most governments don’t have effective and reliable alternatives for in-person voting. 

Online voting is a controversial topic and blockchain online voting is no different. Estonia has been promoting electronic voting since 2005, but MIT and Harvard experts claim these systems are vulnerable to hacking. One issue they raised when it comes to blockchain is the potential to disrupt the system by creating multiple versions or forking a (public) blockchain, making it confusing to know which is the correct chain. 

Voters would need private keys to vote, and if these are lost or stolen, potentially another person can use them to vote. However, this might be harder if the keys are linked to a verifiable identity. Blockchain is also susceptible to failures, software complexities, and does not necessarily adhere to voting requirements such as secret ballots and the ability to verify a selection. In one unfortunate example, the Russian blockchain-based voting system crashed soon after it went live last year.

It is hard to predict whether there will be another disaster such as COVID that will require alternatives to in-person voting. But the Korean government is keen to be prepared if there is.

In Korea’s solution, voting results will be anonymized, and voters will be identified through decentralized identifier (DiD) technology in order to prevent double voting.

If successful, online voting has other advantages beyond adhering to social distancing protocols, such as making the process less time consuming for citizens, potentially making counting more efficient, increasing voter turnout, and reducing associated election costs.

Meanwhile, as part of the Ministry of Science’s other blockchain projects, digital wallet Copay will promote a donation management system that enables donors to track the whole process of the donations. As for the blockchain expansion in postal services, the Korean Postal Service Headquarters will launch an integrated customer management system that enables customers to see and trace all postal services. So far, no specific pilots have been planned for social welfare and renewable energy solutions. 

India’s Election Commission is also considering blockchain for remote voting and announced mock trials earlier this year. In a corporate use case, Japanese life insurer Meiji Yasuda Life adopted blockchain shareholder voting systems.